The Turnbull Government’s anti-worker bill which would allow them to sack union leaders, shut down unions and introduce a public interest test for union mergers is off to the Senate after being passed by the lower house.
The Government used its numbers to pass the Bill, with the ALP and entire lower house cross bench voting against the Bill, which would give the government of the day and members of the business community the power to decide who can stand for election as union leaders, which unions can merge, and even the power to disband unions entirely.
Across the board, this bill imposes harsher penalties and more regulation on unions than corporations are subject to.
The campaign to stop this attack on Australian democracy now moves to the Senate, and Australian unions are mobilising all available campaign resources to protect the rights of our members to decide who leads their unions, and how those unions are run.
The Nick Xenophon Team and Senator David Leyonhjelm have expressed concerns over the Bill but other members of the cross bench haven’t yet made clear their intentions.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said: “This bill is an attack on the rights of every working person in Australia. It goes against international law, and the proud traditions of Australian democracy.”
“We thank the members who voted with the working people of Australia, and opposed the incursion of the federal government into the affairs of unions, which should always be run by workers.”
“The campaign to stop this bill is critical to protecting the rights of all working people, and to changing the rules at work. Without strong, independent unions, working people will be left even more vulnerable.”
“The Turnbull Government’s attacks on unions and workers must end.”
Senators for South Australia - Nick Xenophon, Stirling Griff, Skye Kakoschke-Moore, Lucy Gichuhi.
Senator for Western Australia - Peter Georgiou.
Senators for Queensland - Pauline Hanson, Malcolm Roberts.
Senators for New South Wales - David Leyonhjelm, Brian Burston.
Senator for Victoria - Derryn Hinch.
Senator for Tasmania - Jacqui Lambie.
Labor senators in their dissenting report said the Bill is "politically-driven and designed to interfere with and disrupt the democratic functioning of unions.
“(The Bill) erroneously assumes that unions are like corporations in nature, structure and purpose but this is far from the case, yet despite this fallacious assumption, the Bill would impose a higher and harsher standard on unions than that which exists for corporations. As it is, unions are already more highly regulated than corporations or charities.
"Increasing this regulation even further would only serve to allow the government of the day, employers, business lobbyists or anyone with a 'sufficient interest' the power to commence onerous, costly and unreasonable legal proceedings against unions and union leaders.
Labor senators also have reservations about the Bill's drafting, saying grounds are "far too wide for applying for disqualification orders".
They make a similar criticism of the basis for cancellation of registration of registered organisations.
Labor senators continue that the scheme for putting organisations into administration should be "a genuine remedial scheme; not punitive".
The Labor senators say the consultation the Government undertook two days ahead of the legislation's introduction made it impossible for stakeholders to have enough time to consider or influence the drafting of the bill.
"This fact alone betrays that the government's motives are purely political in nature, as well a lack of basic courtesy and respect towards stakeholders,” Labor senators said.
Greens senators in their dissenting report dismiss the Bill as a politically-motivated instrument to prevent the merger of the CFMEU, MUA and TCFUA.
"In its determination to attack unions, the Coalition has put forward a bill which noticeably lacks supporting evidence and policy and did not adequately engage with stakeholders", the Greens said.
The Greens cited submissions to the inquiry rightly pointing out that measures in the legislation would apply significantly more onerous and stringent laws to unions than apply to corporations.
"For example, the requirement for union amalgamations to be in the public interest is considerably more restrictive than the requirements for corporate mergers which are not required to take into account the interest of workers nor a broader public interest test,” Greens senators said.
Coalition senators relied on the Government having consulted with parties including the ACTU and some of its affiliates through the mechanism of National Workplace Relations Consultative Council.